Blogger’s Note–Because I have some other projects I want to take on, I’ll be offering up shorter and more formulaic posts for the remainder of August. These posts will still be quite good and will merit your visiting the blog each day. Yet at the same time, shorter posts will allow me time to accomplish other objectives. Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.
Texas Liberal Book Of The Day-–William Carlos Williams-Selected Poems. As you see above, Houseplant is reading this book. Mr. Williams does not waste a word in his poems. I wish that we all could combine discipline with meaning to such a degree.
Link Of The Day—The Nation Magazine offers up a series of viewpoints this week debating the Obama administration from the liberal perspective. I feel the Health Care Reform law was a significant accomplishment that will help millions of people get care. (Click the link to see what the bill really does instead of just hearing all the lies.) Overall, I give Mr. Obama a grade of B to this point.
Texas Link Of The Day–-The Texas Observer writes that Texas Democrats have lagged behind Republicans and the campaigns of Governor Rick Perry in the door-to-door solicitation of votes. What I’d add to this observation is that here in Harris County. Texas, Democrats have been very slow to register historically low-turnout groups.
You’d almost think that many elected Democrats in Harris County are content with winning election in safe low turnout districts. You might also feel that some of these folks have no real interest in representing the concerns of the poor and of the large Hispanic population of Houston and Harris County.
Yet I’m certain that such a thing could not be true. Of course not.
The excellent magazine The Nation recently ran a series of articles about the rising income inequality in the United States.
While I’m not as frustrated with President Obama as are some of my fellow liberals, I do wish he would speak up more on this topic.
Here is some of what former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich said in his Nation article about the ever increasing gap between the rich and everyone else in the U.S.—
“Consider: in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation’s total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America’s total annual income. But after that, inequality began to widen again, and income reconcentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total….Each of America’s two biggest economic crashes occurred in the year immediately following these twin peaks—in 1929 and 2008. This is no mere coincidence. When most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top, the rest don’t have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing. America’s median wage, adjusted for inflation, has barely budged for decades. Between 2000 and 2007 it actually dropped. Under these circumstances the only way the middle class can boost its purchasing power is to borrow, as it did with gusto. As housing prices rose, Americans turned their homes into ATMs. But such borrowing has its limits. When the debt bubble finally burst, vast numbers of people couldn’t pay their bills, and banks couldn’t collect.”
People must be able to get fair wages for the work that they do. Liberals must make sure that this issue is part of the political discussion. Average working people must insist that they be treated with respect. Average working people must treat other working people with respect.
Economic fairness for working people is a lot of what being a liberal is about. It’s an issue that must be always be on our agenda because the forces of greed and plunder ever let up for even a moment.
Here are links to help recall the life of Senator Ted Kennedy and to look ahead to the battles still to be fought and won.
(Above–Ted Kennedy running for the Senate in 1962.)
Ted Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the Senate for 46 years. Here is the link to the Art & History page of the U.S. Senate web home. If you look around, you’ll learn a lot. It’s a site to bookmark and visit many times.
Health care was Senator Kennedy’s leading cause. Here is the White House Health care reform web home. President Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress must keep faith with Senator Kennedy’s lifelong work for health care for all.
Here is the web page of Physicians for A National Health Program. This group supports single payer national health insurance. This is the public option that has been in the news.
The American Prospect and The Nation are good liberal magazines. These magazines are strong resources to learn about many of the causes Senator Kennedy fought for and to renew your own commitment to political liberalism.
To win the fights still to come, we need leaders like Senator Kennedy and we need the hard work of average citizens.
( Below–Senator Kennedy in the 1990′s.)
Political columnist E.J. Dionne, who gets it right often enough, writes that President Obama is creating a political coalition inclusive of all with the exception of the far right.
Mr. Dionne says this—
“Over the last week, the true nature of Obama’s political project has come into much clearer view. He is out to build a new and enduring political establishment, located slightly to the left of center but including everyone except the far right. That’s certainly a bracing idea, since Washington has not seen a liberal establishment since the mid-1960s.”
I think Mr. Dionne misses something here that is picked by Bob Herbert of the New York Times.
From Mr. Herbert–….
“….the Center for Labor Market Studies has compiled data showing that the recession’s effects have been “disastrous beyond belief” for some groups, including young men, men without college degrees and black men. These job losses among young workers have ominous long-term implications for American families and the economy as a whole.”
It’s possible that President Obama cares about the plight of the most poor. Yet I’m yet to be convinced he cares enough to do anything about that plight or to take real political risks for the poor.
Addressing the needs of the truly down-and-out would require asking some basic questions about our economic system. It would also require asking questions about our Democratic party which uses the votes of the poor to gain office to extent those votes are needed, but often does little to offer hope to the poor the rest of the time.
President Obama is off to a good start in many respects, but there remains room for improvement. Taking political risks for the good of all Americans would be part of that needed improvement.
Time For Greater Compassion For Auto Employees Losing Jobs—The Need For A Program Of Full Employment
We all know that the American auto worker has taken a lot of hits in recent years and months.
It’s not only been auto plant workers. Car dealerships are taking cuts as well.
It’s become part of the routine when these folks lose their jobs, to criticize the American car industry for being out-of-touch with consumers and to criticize auto workers for not seeing the warning signs of trouble.
These things may be true in some respects. Though we should not forget that much of the criticism of the UAW is coming from the right and what they are objecting to at core is the idea of unions.
We should also note that consumers were in fact buying the big gas-guzzling cars that now seem—to a degree since many people are still buying them and driving them —out of touch with the times.
In any case, we all know the many issues involved. The point has been made—over and over again— that the auto industry had a large hand in its own troubles.
It’s time for compassion for these folks. Anybody losing his or her job after years on the assembly line is in big trouble. You can’t leave a job like that and make that kind of money again.
It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and go on about some other guy’s troubles. The question now is what are we going to do to help these folks?
I don’t think anybody has an answer to that question. Just as I don’t think anybody knows what to do with the urban poor and rural poor in our country.
I question the commitment of President Obama and of the Democratic Congress to really taking on these questions. Doing so would mean addressing some core issues of our economic system, and addressing basic attitudes and stereotypes about people who have not had success in life or who are having a hard time in life.
Our criticism of auto workers seems in some ways meant to absolve ourselves of any oconcern for these people.
From the article—
“The right way to earn our way back to long-term prosperity is through stimulus efforts that will help develop, broadly deploy, fairly compensate and, especially, fully employ our human capital, which will always be our greatest source of national wealth. Only then will we have refired the commercial engines needed to recover from this dismal recession. And only then will we have addressed Americans’ belief that unemployment is by far, with no close second, the most important economic issue facing the country….We need an all-encompassing strategy on the massive scale we used at Normandy to win the war in Europe and that we later had behind the sweeping Marshall Plan to help rebuild Europe’s broken economies. This time, however, our big-thinking strategy must be about creating the 24 million jobs that are missing so that American workers will be nearly fully employed.”
This is the big way we need to be thinking. For all the improvement in our politics and policy with Mr. Obama in office instead of George W. Bush, we are not there yet.
( Blogger’s note—I do not subscribe to The Nation. I buy it on the newstand about once a month. It’s important to realize that seemingly free online content must be paid for by somebody. Please click here to read The Nation and please consider buying it on the newstand or becoming a home suscriber.)
My dry cleaner told me that she a few days of wages after Hurricane Ike because her shop was closed due to a lack of power. And, also, because the owners of the shop decided not to pay her.
Many people in Houston and in other areas affected by Hurricane Ike have lost wages due to the storm. ( Some benefits are in fact available to people in this circumstance. Though they will not make up all lost wages. Also, most people will not, in all likelihood, be aware of such benefits.)
The dry cleaner is a hard working employee who makes sure people’s clothes are clean. When she told me she was not being paid for missed hurricane days, I immediately thought of the giant Wall Street Bailout currently under debate in Washington.
I, regretfully, support the bailout is some form. Here is a liberal take on the issue from The American Prospect. And another liberal view from The Nation. Here is coverage of the bailout from The Huffington Post.
A big problem with it all, beyond the people we are bailing out, is that you can’t trust anything that comes from President Bush’s team and you can barely trust Democrats to protect the interests of average folks.
The whole thing is a big racket and people on every side of the ideological divide see it as such. We might well save the global economy from collapse—so we are being told—but nothing here is going to make the lives of people across the country better than it was before this 700 billion dollar taxpayer financed deal.
We see that when the big guys fall they are picked up. When most working people take a fall they are not just left to pick themselves up, there is often somebody around kicking them while they are down.
The following is from a Nation Magazine article in 2001 written after the disclosure that former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey had taken part in the massacre of civilians during the Vietnam War. ( Here is the full article.)
….. Senator John McCain, …writes with the authority of a former POW who was tortured during a long period of captivity in Vietnam. For McCain, despite the disclosure of the deliberate killing of civilians in the village hamlet of Thanh Phong back in February 1969, Kerrey remains “a war hero” who should be understood as having done what needed to be done in the sort of war being fought in Vietnam. Most disturbing, McCain argues that Vietnam was the kind of war that required its participants to hate the enemy, and he unabashedly makes a combat virtue out of hate. In his words: “I hated my enemies even before they held me captive because hate sustained me in my devotion to their complete destruction and helped me overcome the virtuous human impulse to recoil in disgust from what had to be done by my hand.” It is bad enough when a pilot holds such views, but when hatred informs the spirit of a ground war carried on in the midst of a densely inhabited civilian society, it is worse. It should not be surprising that atrocities became indistinguishable from normal battlefield practice, and not some anomaly that occurred on a single occasion at My Lai, or perhaps twice, counting Thanh Phong.
An impolite question: If a war is immoral, can those who fight in it-even those who demonstrate courage-be heroes? If the answer is yes, was Reagan wrong to honor the SS buried at Bitburg? No less than Iraq, Vietnam was an undeclared, illegal war of aggression that did nothing to keep America safe. Tens of millions of Americans felt that way. Millions marched against the war; tens of thousands of young men fled the country to avoid the draft. McCain, on the other hand, volunteered.
McCain knew that what he was doing was wrong. Three months before he fell into that Hanoi lake, he barely survived when his fellow sailors accidentally fired a missile at his plane while it was getting ready to take off from his ship. The blast set off bombs and ordnance across the deck of the aircraft carrier. The conflagration, which took 24 hours to bring under control, killed 132 sailors. A few days later, a shaken McCain told a New York Times reporter in Saigon: “Now that I’ve seen what the bombs and the napalm did to the people on our ship, I’m not so sure that I want to drop any more of that stuff on North Vietnam.”
Yet he did.
“I am a war criminal,” McCain said on “60 Minutes” in 1997. “I bombed innocent women and children.” Although it came too late to save the Vietnamese he’d killed 30 years earlier, it was a brave statement. Nevertheless, he smiles agreeably as he hears himself described as a “war hero” as he arrives at rallies in a bus marked “No Surrender.”
Democrats can’t allow themselves to be pushed around by this bully McCain as he talks about war and violence and terror for the next nine months.
The choice is clear no matter who wins the Democratic nomination–Is it going to be more war and endless violence or are we going to live our lives as full human beings who react to something other than hate and fear.
One of the worst places I’ve been is Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Beale Street is famous for its place in the history of blues music.
I wrote a poem about how bad it was.
Below the poem is a recent column from The Nation about Beale Street and the fight over stewardship of the Lorraine Motel. The article was titled “Thieves of Black History” and was written by Gary Younge.
The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King was shot and killed.
The poem is called Memphis, Tennessee
Martin Luther King
Was shot in 1968
In Memphis, Tennessee.
Poor black kids
Turn handstands for handouts
From drunken Southern whites
On Beale Street. (Birthplace of the Blues!)
In Memphis, Tennessee.
They can dress up everyone
In an Elvis costume
Have a big Elvis parade
Down Historic Beale Street
On the Fourth of July,
In Memphis, Tennessee.
And have all the Elvises
Water-ski on the Mississippi
Under a canopy
Of Red, White & Blue Fireworks.
It won’t matter.
Because Martin Luther King was shot
In Memphis, Tennessee
And it did not teach
A damn thing.
Below are the first two paragraphs from the The Nation commentary. Here is the link to the full article. It is well worth the time to read the full piece. (The above photo is of the Lorraine Motel balcony where Rev. King was shot.)
If Beale Street could talk, as James Baldwin famously imagined, then somewhere around Memphis’s South Fourth Street it would let out an agonizing cry. Facing east, the garish neon commodification of the blues stands behind you–a trap for tourists and an insult to the legacy of a great musical tradition. Commerce here is thriving from a culture it doesn’t respect. Ahead sprawls the desolation and poverty of the communities that gave blues its meaning and to whom the blues returned some dignity.
A block away at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center, around eighty people have gathered to prevent the pilfering of yet more local black heritage. Twenty years ago, the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated, was turned into a National Civil Rights Museum. The chair of the executive committee of its board, J.R. “Pitt” Hyde III, is a wealthy white Republican. Charged with safeguarding a vital landmark in the nation’s racial history, Hyde lobbied for the defeat of Harold Ford Jr.’s bid for the vacant Senate seat from Tennessee in what was widely regarded as the most racist campaign of the 2006 election. While Hyde has been representing the civil rights museum, the company he founded, AutoZone, has been embroiled in a longstanding EEOC racial discrimination lawsuit.
There has been much marine life in the news in recent weeks.
Japan is undertaking a new whale hunt for ”research.” It will be the first so-called legal hunt of Humpback Whales since 1963. Theoretically, the number of Humpbacks is now high enough to sustain a hunt.
It seems a restored population is in fact bad news for these whales. It is indeed hard to get ahead sometimes.
The photo is a Greenpeace file picture of previous Japanese research on whales.
Here is a story about a firm in Tokyo that offers “whale curry” as something for you to eat. Another product of the research no doubt.
A Minke Whale found its way far into the Amazon River. Local people tried to save it by splashing water on its back when it swam into shallow waters, and by attempting to use boats to push it back to the ocean. These efforts were not successful.
This BBC story relates that rivers and lakes that become brown after being clear may in fact be much more clean and natural. What was keeping some European and North American waterways clear was acid rain that was killing off what would otherwise turn the water a more healthy brown.
Here is a story from Practical Fishkeeping about an attack by billions of jellyfish on the only salmon farm in Ireland.
The jellyfish involved were Mauve Stinger Jellyfish.
Close to where I live, the former Texas A & M at Galveston floating classroom ship Texas Clipper has been sunk near South Padre Island so that it might become an artificial reef. This is reported by The Galveston County Daily News.
Here is a link to the great liberal magazine The Nation. I’ve linked it here to articles discussing the merits of the Democrats running for President in 2008.
Please consider becoming involved in politics and becoming a fighting liberal!